Forbes: James Bland Shares The Blueprint For Building A Digital Giant

July 2nd, 2018

For a generation of mobile millennials who enjoy curated entertainment experiences on-demand, major networks and media companies alike are breaking new ground in the digital entertainment space.

In 2014, over $5.9 billion was spent on digital video advertising, growing by 41.9% from 2013. Although the number of dollars dedicated to linear ad spending grew at a much smaller percentage, total spending still surpassed a staggering $68.5 billion. More notably, since 2014, upward of $30 billion has been invested into developing original cross-platform television programming, with the total number of scripted shows increasing by 71% in the last five years.

Despite the rapid emergence of digital video and an evident decline in traditional television, the total amount of ad dollars allocated to cable networks still eclipses digital exponentially. Yet, with today’s consumers naturally connected to their mobile devices and accustomed to subscription-based streaming services, the tables are turning at an accelerated pace.

The dominance of digital streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, paired with the introduction of YouTube Red and powers like Apple Music and Spotify shifting their focus to developing original programming — a door has opened for content creators to redesign business models and rewrite the rules for breaking into the industry. Equipped with talent, resources and the unrestricted ability to build a loyal audience, Hollywood’s playing field has been leveled for more people to have a fair shot at the spotlight.

As witnessed through the success of Issa Rae’s HBO hit Insecureand Justin Simien’s standout Netflix original Dear White People, transitioning from internet phenomenon to primetime sensation is an attainable achievement with the right mix of compelling storylines, smart strategy and a level of authenticity that engages the masses.

Nominated for two Daytime Emmy Awards, Giants is an acclaimed scripted drama created by 32-year-old producer James Bland. Launched in 2017, the series chronicles the journey of three friends who share a firm commitment to living life on their own terms. But, when unable to escape conflicts of identity, sexuality and circumstance — each character reaches a sobering turning point that forces them to either give up or fight for their lives.

Distributed through Issa Rae’s YouTube channel, the series recently completed its second season, tallying over 2.2 million views and attracting an audience of more than 200,000 viewers per episode. Now, stepping into his third season as the writer, producer and co-star of the series, Bland is poised to continue breaking barriers on and off-screen.

I spoke with James Bland about the vision behind Giants, the evolution of premium content, and the blueprint for creating a successful series in the digital world.

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